Proprioception – in Latin it means “one’s own,” “individual” and “to take or grasp.” In Physiotherapy it means “the sense of where the body (or a limb) is in relation to the rest of the body and the environment.”
Proprioception is essentially messages sent to the brain from muscles, tendons and joints to allow us to move and manipulate our environment without constantly falling, walking into stuff or generally being very unco-ordinated in our movements.
Still don’t quite get it….
Try closing your eyes and extending your left arm out, close a fist with your thumb out. Now as quickly as you can move your right hand out and catch your left thumb. What allowed you to do this (hopefully you caught your thumb) without being able to see where your thumb was??? This is proprioception.
Proprioception is extremely important for all of us, when we move. Unfortunately, because proprioceptive messages are sent from muscles, tendons and joints these messages can be affected when we injure these parts of our body. This can stop the brain receiving the correct messages and result in the brain being “unsure” of where it (or a limb or part of a limb) is in relation to the rest of the body. This can lead to a lack of control in some movements and increase the chance of further injury.
Fortunately, proprioception can be retrained, it is an integral part of rehabilitation in the ankle, knee and shoulder after injury or surgery. What many people are unaware of, is that it is also very important in the back after ongoing issues and the neck after traumatic injuries such as motor vehicle accidents. Proprioception is also extremely important in our ability to walk, and has been shown, that when impaired, increases our risk of falls.
If you think that you might suffer or be at risk of any of the above, we can give you some exercises to assist in improving your proprioception and decreasing your risk of falls or recurrent re-injury.